Band History

The Formation of The African Skye Pipe Band

The African Skye Pipe Band was officially formed in January 1998, by a number of pipers and drummers who had left the Witwatersrand Rifles Pipe Band in September the previous year. Between September and November 1997, these committed musicians used to meet at Rory Bellingan’s house at 145 Queen Street, Kensington, Johannesburg, to practice and debate a name and tartan for the new band. In November 1997, Rory moved to 333 Highland Road, Kensington and this weekly ritual continued there.

These musicians wanted a name that would reflect that they were of Africa but, by the same token, acknowledge the Scottish heritage. As members of the Witwatersrand Rifles Pipe Band, the band had had t-shirts made for their 1995 Edinburgh Tattoo trip, depicting a bunch of musicians in kilts playing pipes and percussion instruments under a blazing African sun. The logo on the T-shirt said “Under an African Sky”. Somehow this came up in the discussion and, between Gavin Abell and Steve Buchanan - one of them suggested “African Sky” as a name, and the other suggested “Skye” as in S-K-Y-E to pick up on the Scottish “Isle of Skye” - the musicians had a name “The African Skye Pipe Band”.

The band had a name, now the tartan had to be finalised. The band borrowed all Chris Mulinder’s tartan sample books from his shop and spent a couple of Wednesday nights discussing the various options. After much discussion and elimination of possibilities by democratic vote, the District of Angus tartan became the tartan of The African Skye Pipe Band.

January 1998, The African Skye Pipe Band was officially in existence with merely a name, a practice venue, an order for a bolt of District of Angus tartan, and a great bunch of musicians. There was an underlying sense of excitement and trepidation as the band met for their first practice of the new season - what would the future hold?

1998 – Skye Debuts

Sadly, the District of Angus tartan had not yet arrived by the time the band had their first gig on the 24 January 1998. So the band performed in their old Douglas kilts from Witwatersrand Rifles Pipe Band days. The event was the annual Jukskei Lodge Burns Supper.

Back Row (L to R) : Rory Bellingan (Pipe Major), Steve St Clair-Hall (Leading Drummer), Graham Whitley (Piper), Graham Hide (Piper), Andy Sawyer (Piper), Ken Morgan (Piper), Steve Buchanan (Snare Drummer), Gavin Abell (Piper), Alasdair Watt (Piper), Terry St Clair-Hall (Bass Drummer), Craig Whitley (Guest Piper), Sean Maher (Pipe Sergeant)


Front Row (L to R) : Ailsa Arbuckle (Tenor Drummer), Jade Gillanders (Piper), Geoff Duggan-Jones (Piper), Keith McMillan (Piper)





1998 – Skye Debuts In It's New Tartan

The African Skye Pipe Band performed in the District of Angus tartan for the first time when they participated in the St Patrick’s Day Massed Pipes and Drums Display at De La Salle College on the 21st March 1998.

1998 – Royal Scottish Gathering

At the Royal Scottish Gathering, held at Delville Sports Club on the 19 September 1998, The African Skye Pipe Band are led into the competition circle by visiting Drum Major Brian Wilson of Northern Ireland.

On the same day The African Skye Pipe Band are declared the Grade 2 RSG Champion pipe band, the Grade 2 South African Champion pipe band and the PBASA Grade 2 Champion of Champions pipe band.

1998 – The Year Draws To a Close

The debut year of The African Skye Pipe Band drew to a close on a high note. The band had won all major awards on the competition field in it’s grade; the band had swelled in numbers; all members were kitted out in the correct uniform and; the learner classes were growing. All in all it had been a successful year for the band and 1999 was looked forward to with much excitement.

1998 – The African Skye Pipe Band

Back Row (L to R) : Steve Buchanan, Graham Whitley, Travis Tokarczyk, Gareth Watt, Craig Whall, Gavin Abell, Ken Morgan, Alasdair Watt, Graham Hide, Andy Sawyer, Keith McMillan, Warren Pretorius, Geoff Duggan-Jones.


Front Row (L to R) : Jenny Duggan-Jones, Michelle Townsend, Sean Maher (Pipe Sergeant), Rory Bellingan (Pipe Major), Steve St Clair-Hall (Leading Drummer), Taryn Townsend, Ailsa St Clair-Hall


Tattoos (military and civilian)

The African Skye Pipe Band has taken part in 10 Tattoos since 2004. These Tattoos have both been international and on home ground.

The definition and history of the word tattoo is: - "A military tattoo is a performance of music or display of armed forces in general. The term comes from the early 17th-century Dutch phrase doe den tap toe ("turn off the tap"), a signal sounded by drummers or trumpeters to instruct innkeepers near military garrisons to stop serving beer and for soldiers to return to their barracks and is unrelated to the Tahitian origins of an ink tattoo." (Source - Wikipedia)

Below is a list of the Tattoos that African Skye has participated in over the years. We are currently in the planning stages of attending the 2022 Basel Tattoo.

2004 - Cape Town Military Tattoo

2008 - South African Tattoo

2009 - South African Tattoo

2011 - South African Tattoo - Lead Band

2012 - South African Tattoo

2013 - South African Tattoo

2016 - Basel Tattoo

2016 - Johannesburg Military Tattoo

2018 - Basel Tattoo

2018 - South African Tattoo